“Church is boring.”

Apr 21, 2015
5 min read

“Church is boring.”

That’s what I’ll often hear people say, in person, on podcasts, blogs, and forums out there.

If you compare church to an action movie, video games or a sporting event then, yes, it is very boring. Even if you compare it to the celebratory atmosphere of a praise-filled Protestant church service then yes, it is boring.

It wasn’t until perhaps the 1840’s [1] that we get the word ‘boring’ as a description of something wearying. In the modern sense, the word ‘boring’ means: “not interesting; tedious.”

On the other hand, any of these previously mentioned events like action movies, video games, sporting events or even a fiery Baptist sermon can be ‘boring’ if you are not interested or invested in what is going on.

At most events, we expect to simply show up without much preparation and be entertained, informed or involved in some pre-planned activity.

I’m not arguing that LDS worship services are perfect in every way and that there is no room for improvement because there are many things we could do better. What I am suggesting, however, is that what we get out of our worship services is primarily our responsibility. I will go further to suggest that what we get out of life as a whole is ultimately our responsibility. Bear with me as I try to explain.

The sacrament, our most sacred ordinance outside of the temple, consists of a tiny piece of bread, a tiny cup of water, and reverent silence (well, except for the kids). There isn’t much that is particularly exciting or earth-shattering about this on its surface, but we aren’t there to have something given to us, rather, we are there to offer up something instead.

“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;” [2]

In other words, what we get out of the ordinance directly corresponds to what we bring to it. Each week, we get a new opportunity to experiment with how we can best do this in our own way.

How often do we as Latter-day Saints meditate? How often do we intentionally sit still in pure silence and extract truth, wisdom or insights from the workings of our mind or the influence of the Spirit?

If you can grow spiritually in pure silence, then how much more might you be able to grow when you are immersed in a reverent meditative environment with your fellow Saints.

Theology has a big role to play in how worship services work. For instance, a Baptist worship service is focused on praise because they are celebrating their salvation. They believe that as one confesses Jesus as their Lord, they are saved. Therefore, you meet to celebrate and praise God for your salvation, fellowship and receive some edification from God’s word.

LDS worship services are more geared toward ordinances, instruction and meditation. Rather than upbeat praise and celebration, the culture seems to prefer silent praise and commemoration.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an energetic praise-filled celebration. I think it would be wonderful to include some of that into our lives, but cultural (as opposed to doctrinal) traditions sometimes keep us in fruitless ruts.

If you feel the need for some praise and celebration, you can engage in that at home or maybe tag along with your Baptist neighbors and share in the good that their traditions have to offer. That’s the beauty of true Mormonism, we are free to enjoy all the good in the world wherever we may find it; the three hour block isn’t meant to be the sole expression of our spiritual lives [2].

Returning to the principle of meditation, I think if more Latter-day Saints practiced it in private and public worship, then the issue of church being boring would practically disappear. Once you take ownership of your spirituality, you don’t wait to have it spoon-fed to you, rather, you discern it and pull it from anything and everything around you. I believe that the principle of meditation and pondering is essential to any worshipper.

I shared an account from Richard G. Scott in another post recently [3] where he was in an unproductive gospel doctrine class. He was still able to be tuned in and receive revelation that actually had nothing to do with the class, in fact, he got up and left! I can relate to his experience though I don’t often get up and leave the class. Usually, in the process of listening, a certain remark or scripture leads me to disengage from the class mentally and I’m off in my own world, pondering and meditating upon some subject. Sometimes, I never re-engage with the class while other times I’m back in a few seconds. The point is that I believe very strongly in taking ownership of my own spirituality.

LDS worship services are not just about getting edifying instruction. We are there among fellow-saints, many of which struggle with a variety of issues and conflicting personality characteristics. We develop patience, charity, and a variety of Christ-like attributes by associating with people that we might not like while being blessed by others that we wish we could be more like.

None of it works unless each individual takes ownership of their spirituality and engages in the community.

Boredom is a choice.

David O. McKay once taught:

“We pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements: One is spiritual communion arising from our own meditation; the other, instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is the meditation. Meditation is the language of the soul. It is defined as “a form of private devotion, or spiritual exercise, consisting in deep, continued reflection on some religious theme.” Meditation is a form of prayer. …

Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.” [4]

If you would like to learn more about how you can begin to experiment with meditation, read this post.

We live in an age of distraction and we are addicted to it, we crave it. We want to be connected to everything, to know the latest news and to snack endlessly on status updates. There is plenty of time for meditation, but can we detach long enough for it to be effective? Our ears itch to be satisfied with some new thing, patience is becoming an affliction to be avoided rather than a virtue to be developed. Many secret, sacred doors remain closed because the price of patience is becoming increasingly too high. Revolution stirs within our souls, will we maintain the status quo of carnal security or tip the scales in favor of a mighty change of heart?

  1. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=boring&allowed_in_frame=0
  2. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/31.23?lang=eng#22
  3. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/59.9?lang=eng#8
  4. http://oneclimbs.com/2015/03/29/faith-fiction-and-going-beyond-first-impressions/
  5. https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-david-o-mckay/chapter-4?lang=eng

1 Comment

  1. Richard J. Nobbe III

    “…patience is becoming an affliction to be avoided rather than a virtue to be developed. Many secret, sacred doors remain closed because the price of patience is becoming increasingly too high.”

    This could have been something right out of General Conference. (And I believe something very similar to it has been said). I am trying to remind myself of these things daily. And the neat thing is that the more patient we are, the more we actually enjoy it. The more time we seek to be in prayer, or in meditation, or taking long walks and pondering. We start to crave this time when we shut out the noise of the world – and it’s very noisy right now. With hand-held devices that are equipped to give us virtually any piece of information/entertainment on-demand, we need to make sure we’re not creating an environment where the Spirit has no place to come into our lives.

    Regarding sacrament meeting, Sunday school, relief society & priesthood, and virtually all other meetings in the church, my institute teacher once told me that if we are really “tuned-in” to the things of the Spirit, then there really should be two meetings taking place – much as you have described in this post. One meeting is the actual meeting, and the other meeting is our personal interactions with the Holy Spirit. Some of the best meetings I’ve ever had are when the Holy Spirit is comforting me, teaching me, or giving me some other kind of instruction. The meeting could be about Naomi in the old testament, but the spiritual meeting might be something like, “I really need to do this for someone,” or “am I doing everything I can to help my wife/kids through……”

    Thus, I think the main reason we go on Sunday is to partake of the Sacrament, which is the most important thing we do each week. As you said, we all bring fruit-meet for repentance, if we have properly prepared, and we ponder our Baptismal, Temple, and for brethren, our Priesthood covenants. But then, the next reason we go is to have three hours which are set apart from the world. As long as the lessons center around Jesus Christ, His doctrine, and the atonement, then it really doesn’t matter what the quality of the lessons are – the point is we are in a place where the Spirit is going to be very eager to speak to us. Now, it’s always nice to hear a good talk, and it’s great to see a Sunday school or elder’s quorum teacher who is prepared. Oft times this can elicit more revelation. But we are commanded to gather in the Church every week to partake of the emblems of the Lord’s suffering, much like we are commanded to stand in other holy places. The most holy places on the earth are the Temples, the Stakes of Zion, and the Home.

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